The California Retailers Association opposes a bill to have the State Lands Commission approve port automation.
Retailers are opposing a plan to have a California state agency review port automation plans.
In a letter to Henry Stern, chair of California’s Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, the California Retailers Association expressed its opposition to AB 1321, which was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-64), whose district abuts the Port of Los Angeles.
The bill would give California’s State Lands Commission, which already has certain responsibilities for the ports of Los Angeles and Oakland, authorization “to approve, on a case-by-case basis, the use of automated technology, as defined, on the property of coastal ports within the commission’s jurisdiction when the commission determines that the proposed transition to the use of automated technology will provide a safe working environment and not cause critical damage to the state economy or to the economies of surrounding local communities.”
The bill was introduced following an outcry by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and some community members against plans by APM Terminals to automate its Pier 400 terminal in the Port of Los Angeles.
Gipson used a controversial practice that the website California Globe and others have termed “gut and amend” or “gut and replace” to introduce his automation legislation. In this case, he stripped the bill of earlier language having to do with the use of pesticides in juvenile correctional facilities and replaced it with the text of the proposed automation regulation.
The practice also is used in some other states. In Hawaii, it has been decried by Common Cause as “abhorrent” and “deceptive.”
After the Port of Los Angeles approved a coastal development permit for infrastructure work needed so that APMT can begin testing automated equipment, the Los Angeles City Council last week vetoed the permit and told the city’s Board of Harbor Commissioners to reconsider an appeal of that permit by the ILWU.
The retailers told Stern they believe that Gipson’s “bill is overly broad, especially in the definition of ‘automated technology,’ which is defined as ‘any equipment or infrastructure that does not require a human operator physically located in the machine or at the location of the infrastructure to operate it.’ This definition casts a wide net that encompasses numerous technologies used by ports to streamline operations.
“By this definition, even technologies like vending machines, parking lot payment machines and automated phones would require approval. This bill will place an unnecessary additional burden on the State Lands Commission to review and approve simple business operational decisions at all ports and would make compliance for our ports more difficult,” the letter said.
The retailers also argued the proposed legislation may “negatively impact the efforts at our ports to achieve important reductions in greenhouse gases with the use of automated technology. Utilizing automation has also contributed to the economic growth realized from the importation of goods into our ports. Relying on this technology is a key strategy to remaining competitive with ports across the country, and this bill has the potential to make it more difficult for our ports to attract and retain more market share and remain competitive.
“Failing to implement automated technology could result in increased costs of operation, which would cause manufacturers to explore other ports as options, harming California consumers in the process,” the retailers said.
APM Terminals said the permit “allows for minor infrastructure improvements that will enable APM Terminals to modernize Pier 400 with environmentally progressive zero-emissions and near-zero-emissions yard equipment.”